Microbiology is the study of minute organisms that can only be resolved using a microscope. These microorganisms cannot be seen using our naked eyes. Cell function has been studied extensively in microbiology. Moreover, extensive studies have been done at the level of DNA & genes, and proteins. These studies are called known genetics/molecular biology. At the level of the community, they are called epidemiological and ecological microbiology. Examples of microbial organisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and protozoa.
History of Microbiology
The study of microbes is not a current study. It also existed several centuries ago. The advancements being seen at present are just innovations of the discoveries that were made by then scientists (Klein, 2002). Louis Pasteur, a former research scientist discovered the microorganisms responsible for rancidity in milk and even other dairy products (Brul et al., 2008). In addition, he made discoveries in the health sector by studying drugs that function against bacteria. These drugs were called antibiotics. Pasteur’s discoveries were research highlights that were mainly meant to disapprove the spontaneous generation theory.
Another scientist who made a lot of discoveries was Koch. He was specialized in the field of disease causatives. He made some discoveries on novel microorganisms that caused diseases in organisms hence the disease and germ theory (Klein, 2002). Also, Koch contributed much to the culture of microorganisms, which became a mode of study for most discoveries in microbiology. The discovery of cheese was one of the many spontaneous occurrences in microbiological studies. The product of this unforeseen end reaction was very sweet.
The discoveries of the twenty-first century mainly included works on recombinant DNA technology. The branch of science that involves this study is called biotechnology. Biotechnology has made the study of microbes very easy. With the current technology, synthetic forms of the original biological forms can be produced in a blink of an eye.
Microbiology and Health
A great contribution has been made in the health field through studies in microbiology. Major research work is being done on the treatment of flu and Tuberculosis (Tang, 2009). A perfect cure for these diseases has not been found yet. Therefore, research microbiologists, lab technologists, and clinicians are doing collective research work in the field for continuity of research studies to come up with curatives for treatment and vaccines that would help prevent the spread of such infectious diseases (Land, 1999). Another contribution of microbiology is in the area of sample analysis for disease diagnosis, infections, outbreaks, and management.
Health issues have advanced in various ways. Some diseases have developed resistance and hence require a different form of research for better treatment methods. Diagnostic assays methods such as monoclonal antibodies have been devised in current health diagnostic processes. New infections have prompted researchers to look for alternative health treatment products by use of microorganisms. Antibody vaccines, insulin, and growth hormone can now be developed through recombinant DNA technology (Klein, 2002). Vaccines are very important in disease prevention hence very crucial for the health sector. Microorganisms have been of great help with the development of vaccines. The vaccines are either partially dead or alive.
Cancer treatment is also related to microorganism utilization. The microbe clostridium has been noted to curb the growth of cancer cells. Microbiological studies did prompt the development of drugs such as antibiotics which are used to treat many bacteria-related infections. Most antibiotics are either bactericidal or bacteriostatic. This section of microbiology deals with immunology. The aspects dealt with here include transmission and pathogenesis.
Microbiology and Agriculture
Agriculture and microbiology are two inseparable disciplines. For the agricultural sector to flourish, soil issues and plant issues must be addressed. Microbiology provides an avenue to cater to these issues. Studies in agriculture involve soil studies for the presence of microbes that are important for plants and those that pose threat to the plants and crops (Insam, 2001). In addition, some studies involve pests and the diseases they cause in plants. Studies involving diseases and pest control have resulted in growth in the agricultural sector. Moreover, these pests have been found to infest crops and even farm animals hence leading to reduced production. Major studies in this field have greatly contributed to agricultural development.
Some of the major advancements explored extensively in the agricultural sector would help improve the growth of plants, fertility of the soil, and crop yield. Soil fertility involves the transformation of nutrients and biodegradation of organic matter. There are essential soil microbes that are very significant to the soil. They enrich the soil with nutrients by adding some of the important micronutrients used by plants into the soil.
At most times, these microbes have been used to prepare man made fertilizers. They are grown using culture methods to produce microbes that are stuffed into organic matter. This process is called biodegradation. Soil benefits from these organisms due to increased soil structure, increased humus, biological equilibrium maintenance and decomposition of the parts of plants that are resistance (Insam, 2001).
On the other hand, lack of productivity is brought about by microbes too but of different species. These microorganisms are responsible for disease progression in plants. In order to prevent these diseases, the microbes have been studied intensively so as to devise ways of making anti-microbes that can help prevent control disease in plants. In addition, these studies have provided information on how soil fertility can be improved (Insam, 2001). Studies of the microbes involve cell nutrition by the microbes, energy transmission and generation and microbial growth curve especially for bacteria.
Agricultural microbiology gives knowledge of the physiology, morphology, genetics and the circulation of nutrient in soil by the microorganisms. Soil provides a perfect habitat for microorganisms. For instance, the Mycorrhizia fungus that leaves at the roots of plants in soil provides uptake of nutrients by the plant. This fungus is found in the roots of many plants hence it is beneficial in global terms. Another form of microbe that is beneficial is the bacteria found at the root nodules of leguminous plants such as soy bean and green grams. Certain microorganisms are called bio-pesticides because they provide plants with antagonistic components against other pathogens.
These microbes produce inhibitory compounds that act as antibacterial compounds or antibiotics. Other microbes compete for the same nutrients with other microorganisms preventing their survival hence controlling their pathogenicity.
Microbiology and Industry
Industrial microbiology has had a great impact on the safety and control of manufactured products (Wackett, 2002). Recombinant technology and biotechnology have been exploited for the production of industrial components such as food, cosmetics, medicine, biochemical products, and even toiletries. These products are very useful to human being especially food, which is a basic need. Advancement in this field can help alleviate certain insufficiency hence contributing to good health and high standards of living to people who can afford the products.
Many industries depend on microorganisms for most of their production. Many dairy product industries use beneficial microorganisms to produce their products that are highly consumed. These products include cheese, yogurt, and tenderized meat. Protease enzymes produced by bacteria are used to soften the steak part of beef and other meat products from animals. On the other hand, cheese and yogurt are spoiled milk products.
A bacterium is an organism that actively participates in the rancidity and decomposition of food products (Wackett, 2002). Decomposed products do not taste good to the mouth. However, for these two milk products, decomposition produces a sweet taste. In cheese production, milk is precipitated with rennet a synthetic form of rennin enzyme and lactose. The curd produced is then turned into the cheese using a starter culture that is comprised of different bacteria. The cheese discovery was an accident and the aftermath turned out to be very sweet.
Yeast is used in alcohol fermentation and fermentation of dough used in bread making. These microorganisms are very beneficial and help out in the food production in industries. Chemical and pharmaceutical industries use the real isolated organisms or recombinant forms created by recombinant DNA technology. Sweeteners such as aspartame are produced by biotechnology.
Another area that requires microbial synthesis function is the fuel production industry which is also related to the waste production and management industry. Biomass wastes can be recycled to produce clean and environmentally friendly energy. Microorganisms function well in gas production and hence energy production. Other low-grade ores are hard to extract (Wackett, 2002). Microorganisms do well in the extraction of these ores and hence oil used for energy production. Water purification methods also may include the use of microbial organisms.
Microbiology and Environment
Certain issues can be addressed using microbiological studies. The environment comprises components that are both biotic and abiotic (Tillet, 1995). Accumulation of toxic matters in the environment poses health risks to people and other biotic components. These toxic materials can be eliminated by the use of microbes and decomposition strategies. Research scientists are still assembling findings of ways that can help change the environment positively and make it a better place to exist in.
Everyone is always concerned about their surrounding. Various toxic products are released into the atmosphere creating a lot of pollution every day. Some products are organic while some are not. The removal of these toxic components requires special microorganisms. Certain microbes require metallic compounds for their nutrition and growth. Such bacteria have been greatly utilized in bioremediation projects. This is the process of reducing products of pollution from the environment.
Bio-treatment of waste is also another form of environmental protection mechanism against toxic substances or unwanted products. There is a need for analysis when using bio-treatment procedures. This process can only be accomplished in a highly optimized condition that requires careful management. It involves the use of microorganisms in bioreactors hence is a combination of controlled and highly specialized systems. A high level of technical know-how is needed for those specialized in the field.
The provision of safe water for drinking is very important. Water is essential for many purposes. It is a universal solvent. Water cannot be created fresh but it is recycled. Provision of this water involves the treatment of used or dirty water. Microorganisms play a good role in sewer water treatment. Water on the other hand acts as a carrier of diseases. As a universal solvent, water is very essential for various microbial functions. Many diseases affecting human beings are waterborne. The pathogenesis of these infectious agents has been studied. Some ways have been devised for detecting pathogens in water and many other fluid components.
The study of these detection methods has resulted in new ways of water treatment that include nanotechnology which is a current form of technology (Wackett, 2002). Detection of bimolecular components has had a shift from classical assay methods to current genetically oriented assays techniques. The major function of microbes in the environment is the recycling of substances. This process occurs every moment replacing old with new (Klein, 2002). If there were no microorganisms on earth then there would be an accumulation of compounds both organic and inorganic. These would have filled the earth and stuffed it to the brim. Thanks to the microorganisms that have provided a way to dispose of which is called bioremediation. This issue supports the notion that matter can neither be destroyed nor created.
Future of Microbiological Studies
The soil and ocean or sea harbor the greatest number of microorganisms. Cumulative studies of these microbes have resulted in huge data that is still on the increase. Every organism is special on its own. Advancement into the studies of microbes has been on metagenomics (Klein, 2002). Currently, bioinformatics is heading in the research section. The major setback is that application of these novel approaches in water and soil is challenging.
Another challenge is the management of large genomic data. Every species is special in its way hence has been preserved differently. Research is still on and since it is a continuous process various reforms have been put in place to ensure good transfer of information from one generation to another. In addition, there are strategies to protect informational flow globally. Microbiology is a very interesting discipline in science that will stay as long as humankind survives.
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Klein, A. D., Lansing, M. P. and John, P. H. (2002). Scope and History of Microbiology [Online Learning Center].Retrieved from www.highered.mcgraw-hill.com
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